Suicidal ideation in the Finnish general population. A 12-month follow-up study

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2001 Dec;36(12):590-4. doi: 10.1007/s127-001-8198-x.


Background: The epidemiology of suicidal ideation has remained a relatively unstudied area. The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence, prevalence and persistence of and recovery from suicidal ideation in a sample of the Finnish general population.

Methods: Postal questionnaires including the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were mailed to the study subjects (n = 1,593) at baseline and on follow-up after 12 months. The suicidality item of BDI was used to screen suicidal ideation.

Results: The 12-month incidence (4.6%) and prevalence of suicidal ideation (14.7%) were higher in men than in women (3.1% and 9.2%, respectively). Sixty-nine per cent of those men and 59% of those women who had suicidal ideation at baseline continued to have suicidal thoughts on follow-up. Suicidal ideation and the severity of depression associated strongly. Over half of the men and women who had persistent suicidal ideation had not visited any health services for help with psychological distress during the 12-month follow-up period. Daily smoking associated with a decreased probability of recovery from suicidal ideation.

Conclusions: Suicidal ideation is common and persistent at the population level. Seeking professional help for depression with suicidal tendencies is disproportionately low in relation to the high prevalence of suicidal ideation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thinking